They say every time you go to a baseball game you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. This is my story about seeing three things I’d never seen before…all in the same night.
On August 14th, 2009, I went to Camden Yards, along with several dozen fellow Chief Petty Officers, for a night at the ballpark. A chance to mix and mingle outside the workspace. Most of the people in attendance weren’t baseball fans and, in fact, would spend the game on the concourse socializing and having a few (too many?) adult beverages. But I can’t go to a ballgame without paying attention to the game in front of me and it turned out this game provided a few reasons to pay attention. Even in the middle of a lost season on a hot and steamy Baltimore night in August.
Let’s not sugarcoat things. The Orioles of 2009 were bad and as August 14th dawned they were 47-67. In last place in the division. Twenty-four and a half games out of first place. On their way to the fourth straight year of losing more than ninety games. The Orioles lineup for the game was as follows.
Izturis, Cesar SS
Well, pass another beer and let’s see what happens.
The Angels, who entered the game leading the AL West by 4.5 games, put up 2 runs in the first inning, but the Orioles responded with 6 (SIX!) in their half against Jered Weaver. They sent 11 hitters to the plate and nibbled Weaver to death which, let’s face it, is what you do to Weaver. Three doubles, three singles, two walks. One of those doubles was from Felix Pie. One of those singles was from Cesar Izturis.
Time passes. Beers are drunk. Stories are told. In the bottom of the 3rd, Pie hits a home run. The Angels answer back in the top of the 4th with a Bobby Abreu home run and it’s 7-3. In their half of the 4th the Orioles mount a rally and tack on a run (goodbye Mr. Weaver) but Pie strikes out with the bases loaded and the inning ends with the Birds up 8-3.
The Orioles’ starting pitcher, who’s making his fourth MLB start, works a perfect 5th inning. Izturis leads off the bottom with a double and in turn gets doubled home by Roberts. 9-3.
The game bogs down. Not much happening. Conversations are becoming more important than what’s happening on the field. The O’s starter gives up a two out single in the 7th and gets pulled. Unfortunately, Matt Albers comes in from the pen (eight years later he’s still, somehow, in the majors) and promptly coughs up two runs. 9-5.
That’s when things got interesting. Pie singled to start the 7th and Izturis tripled him home. Roberts, Jones, and Markakis doubled in succession. A Wieters single and Mora Sac Fly made it 14-5. That brought Pie to the plate and as I always do when I go to the ballpark now that I don’t keep a scorecard, I looked at the scoreboard to see what he’d done so far. I noticed he needed a triple for the cycle.
I looked back at the game.
There have been 317 cycles in MLB history so I was pretty excited to see one. But most of the people around me didn’t seem to realize what they’d just seen because a cycle is unique among the rare MLB moments (and also because they weren’t really paying attention at this point). Many are instantly recognized. A triple play. A walk-off homer. The ones that require the entire game, a no-hitter or four-home run game, are so loud that nobody could fail to notice. But the cycle is different. How would the average fan in the park notice that Pie had a single, double, and home run so far? His most notable at bat of the game was the one where he struck out with the bases loaded. So there was a standing ovation but it wasn’t the whole park.
And then I looked back at the scoreboard. Izturis was next to the plate for the Orioles and if you’ve been reading carefully you know what I saw.
1st inning: Single
3rd inning: Popout
5th inning: Double
7th inning: Triple
I started pointing and yelling at nobody in particular. “Holy S&^%! Izturis needs a home run to do it too!” I’m really not sure anybody heard me or understood what I was saying.
There have never been two cycles in the same game, by teammates or opponents.
I’m not certain but I’m sure, at best, even having a second teammate come to the plate with the chance at a second cycle is exceedingly rare.
I’m absolutely certain this is the only time in baseball history somebody has come to the plate looking to complete the cycle immediately after his teammate has just done so AND they both had previous hits in the same inning.
Izturis tapped out to the first baseman because, you know, 17 home runs in 13 years. But I’d still seen something only done 300+ times in history. And another thing I knew had never happened.
And then when I was staring at the box score tonight while writing this I realized I’d seen one more thing. That young Orioles pitcher making his fourth start that night? He earned his first major league victory on August 14, 2009. His name is Chris Tillman.
Go to a game tonight, or next week, or next month. You never know when you’ll see something you never forget.